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Lawyer Weston fire defendant wanted resolution to tragedy

by Allison Barker

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

CHARLESTON -- A defense lawyer for Barbara Brown, one of three parents accused of killing five children in a 1997 Weston house fire, said Tuesday that his client agreed to a plea bargain to reach "an appropriate resolution to this tragedy."

Brown pleaded guilty Friday in Greenbrier County Circuit Court to three counts of misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to one year in jail on each count. She was released for time served after being incarcerated at the Central Regional Jail in Flatwoods since Dec. 10, 1997.

"She's now living in West Virginia. That's all I'll say," said the lawyer, John Pizzuti of Wheeling.

By agreeing to the plea, Pizzuti said Brown admitted "she was in reckless disregard of the safety of her children and that she unintentionally caused their death."

Brown's trial on arson, murder and conspiracy charges was set to begin June 25 in Greenbrier County.

Investigators say Brown and her husband, Ricky, torched their home on Nov. 21, 1997, leaving the children inside to die in order to collect some $85,000 in insurance money.

Barbara Brown's three children died in the fire along with two children of former housemate, Janette Ables. All five were under the age of 10.

Ricky Brown, whose trial date has not been set, will be tried in the Eastern Panhandle before Grant County Circuit Court Judge Andrew Frye.

Pizzuti said Ricky Brown's lawyer, Jay McCamic, was aware of Barbara Brown's plea. A woman answering the telephone at McCamic's office in Wheeling Tuesday said he was on vacation this week and could not be reached for comment.

Messages left with Ables lawyer, David Orndorff, and Lewis County Prosecutor Joseph Wagoner, were not immediately returned Tuesday.

Ables, who had faced state and federal charges in connection with the alleged arson plot, pleaded guilty Jan. 24 to two counts of felony child neglect resulting in death.

She is serving a three-to-15 year sentence in Wheeling.

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